European Starling Bait Program
The type of bait used is very important. During the winter months a starling's metabolism is at an all-time high. They expend great amounts of energy just to stay warm, and keep from freezing. A high calorie, high energy food is what they like best. Suet is probably the best commercially bought starling food during the winter months. Raw beef suet is also an excellent bait during the winter.
Commercial no-melt suet preparations can be used throughout the year. Typical suet is the hard, white fat from around the beef kidney area, often available from butcher counters. Other fat sources including deer fat and rib cages also can be used. Suet can be fed as it comes from the butcher or melted and mixed with other foods to form suet cakes. Suet is sometimes supplemented with a protein source such as canned dog food, dehydrated eggs, or peanut butter.
One option is to make your own suet cakes for the birds.
Here is one recipe:
3 cups melted suet
3 cups cornmeal (preferably yellow)
1 cup peanut butter (preferably chunk style)
Melt the suet in a pan and add the cornmeal and peanut butter. Bird seeds, raisins, rolled oats, unsalted nutmeats, dehydrated egg, apple bits, brown sugar, honey or syrup also can be added. Add or subtract ingredients depending on what is handy, but avoid ingredients that have rich seasoning. Pour the suet mixture into cupcake papers in a muffin tin to harden. Remove the papers, and the cakes are ready for the birds. The melted suet mixture can also be poured into cut-down cardboard milk cartons or into 1-inch holes drilled into a small log. These can be placed out directly for feeding.
Suet can be fed in a net onion or orange sack or in a suet feeder. Hang suet feeders on or near a tree, on a wooden post, or perhaps from your seed feeder. It is best to keep suet in shade so that it doesn't melt. Keep it high enough so dogs can't reach it.
Starlings can't leave this stuff alone!
Keep in mind that birds prefer good quality seeds that are reasonably fresh. Seeds that are too old or of poor quality may be avoided or just scattered from the bait station onto the ground. Small holes in sunflower seeds, for example, may indicate insect damage and reduced quality. Niger thistle seeds, which are often used in finch feeders, are highly attractive to finches when fresh, but may be rejected when several months old. Although commercially packaged seed mixes offer a convenient way to get started in starling baiting, such mixtures often contain large amounts of filler seeds that starlings do not prefer, and the seeds may not be as fresh as ideal. A good alternative is to purchase preferred seeds in bulk and mix your own, or try fresh specialty mixes available from sources that specialize in bird feeding products.
One seed combination that is attractive to a wide range of desirable backyard songbirds is:
50 percent sunflower seeds
30 percent white proso millet
20 percent finely cracked corn